Skill #8: Take a Stand


When Bree Newsome climbed the South Carolina Statehouse Confederate Memorial flagpole to remove the flag after the hate-motivated murders of nine innocent church-goers in Charleston, SC, and was arrested on the spot for civil disobedience, I found myself thinking, “Now that’s an arrest record I would be proud to have.” Regardless of your sentiments about the flag, your criticisms of this 27 year old activist from NC and her motivation, or concerns about the method of protest, Bree Newsome took a stand for her beliefs and what she felt was right. She did so with integrity and without violence.

What Bree had was a connection to the issue. Her heart was in it. It took courage to be ‘the one’ to take action on the call of the people: “Take it down.” But this blog is not about taking down a flag. It is about taking a stand.

It is about having the courage to take action when something is not right. After all, the root of the word courage is ‘cor’, or ‘heart’, which suggests that your heart must be connected to the issue.

Like you probably, I’ve been there. Several years ago, my beloved mentor and boss was fired after an untainted career of 31 years with a large institution. As everyone on his admiring staff, I felt outraged and heart-broken. He filed a grievance and I quickly made the decision that I would speak on his behalf in the process. It was not a decision without risk: there was widespread fear of retribution and job security at stake. I won’t lie—I was literally shaking when I spoke out about multiple injustices toward him and others to the committee, his boss, and his boss’ bosses. But I sat in that small room, facing all those people, and spoke the truth. I have never once regretted that decision. I knew it meant I would probably need to change jobs and leave a position that I loved—that I might have put my future with that institution at risk.

My heart shouted at me to take action.

I could not NOT listen.

It strikes me that perhaps taking a stand involves an injustice and action for the greater good. Courage suggests that we are facing some danger or risk. But courage also suggests that our heart must be involved and I personally admire that trait.

When I was an internship training director for psychologists, we interviewed a brilliant young woman who was compelled to reveal on her application that she had been arrested. Her qualifications were outstanding, her recommendations glowing, and her work samples impeccable. She was articulate, friendly, warm, and beautiful to boot. We asked, “So what is this arrest about?” It was civil disobedience. She had peacefully protested an injustice against a marginalized group of people and was subsequently arrested. She became our number one choice in the selection process. The very fact that she took a stand for a cause made her even more appealing. The fact that she was passionate and courageous showed us the truth of her self.

Sometimes our passion and courage are about our truest self with the greater good being our own welfare and the welfare of those closest to us. I think about all of the people with whom I’ve worked over the years who begin to take a stand in their personal life and the marvelous transformation that follows when they act with courage—when they listen to their heart, when they take a stand for their rights as a person. When we take a stand for something beyond our own life, we become more connected to our community and something bigger than us. Sometimes, it is just the right thing to do for another.

So listen to your heart. What is it saying? Or what is it shouting….?

Take a Stand because Life is Messy and Life is Marvelous.


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